Saturday, January 3, 2009

I can haz elementary school?

Hi peeps. We did not, in fact, fall off the face of the earth. But we did visit New York, vote for Obama, vote against Prop 8, come down with a hideous virus that turned into bronchitis for me, MB and Kidlo, buy a ginormous Christmas tree and limp into the new year. Oh, and I finished a novel. So, you know, we've been busy.

But now that I feel (somewhat) above water, I'm jumping back into blogging. Today's topic:

We need elementary schools downtown

I've been looking into the school situation downtown. Kidlo isn't even 2 yet, so obviously we have some time before we have to worry about getting him into school. But I figure it's better to start thinking about it sooner rather than later so that I'm not scrambling and panicked when the time comes to send him to elementary school.

The zoned elementary school for most of downtown is 9th Street Elementary. By all accounts, it's pretty crappy. I've not visited the school (yet--more on that below), but I did drive through the neighborhood and yikes.

View Larger Map

You hate to write off a school just from seeing it on the outside, but...really, it doesn't look good.

In despair, I googled for information on the LAUSD and stumbled on a site called Ask a Magnet Yenta. Turns out it's run by Sandra Tsing Loh, who wrote Mother on Fire: A True Motherf%#$@ Story About Parenting! Sandra and her fellow Magnet Yentas offer advice on how to navigate the LAUSD and also to improve the local public schools. From the site:

“Ask A Magnet Yenta” began as an advice column on the LA Times “School Me” blog (2006 to 2007) to help Los Angeles parents negotiate the LAUSD magnet system. Original “Magnet Yenta” Sandra Tsing Loh was joined by Angel Zobel-Rodriguez and a host of other savvy, experienced public school moms in dispensing free online advice.

Our vision (and parents’ network) has since expanded to include charter schools, neighborhood schools, and schools in the larger Los Angeles area. Our core mission continues to be to serve LA families by helping them get connected with good public schools.

I contacted Sandra and the Magnet Yentas and zing! They immediately jumped in with tons of advice on how to proceed. They even created a bright, shiny new thread just for downtown. Some advice from the thread:

The better use of your time is to meet Richard Alonzo, your Local District 4 Superintendent and my favorite LAUSD employee ever. In the odd boundary setting that is oh-so-LAUSD, Carthay Center (my school), just outside Beverly Hills’ borders, and your trio of downtown schools are both in Local District 4 (not to be confused with School Board District 2, which you are also in). Richard Alonzo is a GIFT to LAUSD, an entity that too often receives coal in its stocking.


I want to echo and amplify the praises of Dr. Alonso. He is the Dumblebore of LAUSD, as near as I can tell.

My other piece of advice, in terms of working with schools, is that in addition to visiting the school, another huge first step is networking with other parents downtown. Our experience in Highland Park was that indvidual schools were often resistent to working with us, because they did not have hte budget, or were afraid, or didn’t know what to do. But once you have a group of parents who have a list of things they want, district officials, like Dumbledore/Alonso, can wave a wand and make it happen.

The district wants to get middle class kids back into the school district and if a group of parents come to them with a doable wish list and a committment to support the teachers and the school, it can be a real win win.


Other contacts of ours suggest:

They should contact Raf Rodriguez with PUC Charters about starting a charter, or South of downtown there is the Synergy charter. Another excellent (although hard to get into?) down choice is The Accelerated School.

Right now I'm in the process of trying to schedule a visit to 9th Street Elementary, along with Sandra and anyone else who'd like to tag along. We want to see the school on the inside to find out if it's as bad as it looks. Either way, it's good to have the information so that we can figure out what steps to take next in our Quest to Have a Great Downtown Elementary School. It looks like the visit will take place in late January.If you're interested in joining us, contact me through the link in the sidebar of the blog.

I'm incredibly excited to have found the Ask A Magnet Yenta crew. With all of their advice, energy and support, I really think we can build something wonderful for Downtown kids.


§åïñ† §ïññêr said...

Did you look into Castelar Elementary in Chinatown? You can hop on Dash route B to get there.

Li said...

Castelar is a great school and close to where we live, but it's not zoned for mose of Downtown. I don't know what's involved in getting your kid into a non-zoned school (or if it's even possible). I'm going to contact Richard Alonzo, the district superintendent, this week and set up a meeting. I'll ask him about Castelar.

Ginny-Marie said...

Just to clarify, Richard does not attend our church, but a foundation that FUMCLA created (the Urban Foundation) awarded him the "Good Neighbor" award two years ago. He is a friend of our board of Trustees chair.

Still - our ability to contact him remains the same. He's an amazing person, LAUSD is lucky (and I'm sure they know it) to have him.

Li said...

Thanks for the correction--I'll fix it in the post.

Dona Junta said...

I don't have kids but I was trippen out when I was around that area taking pictures for my blog. I passed by the school not really knowing it was actually a school! I though it was maybe some community building but nope I read the sign and it sure was 9th st elemantary school. I was just surprised because it is in a sort of desolate area near skid row. It also is sort of small and I could not even see where the entrance was at? I love industrial areas for me but I would not be sure about my kids being around there.
I tried to look up info online out of curiosity but not much came up. I was wondering what residents send thier kids there? is it the famalies that live near or own skid row? there is not many homes in the area either only a few scatterd houses here and there and who ever lives in the older loft buildings.

Li said...

I was wondering what residents send thier kids there? is it the famalies that live near or own skid row?

That is an excellent question. I'm planning to visit the school in the next few weeks, so I'll find out and post when I know more.

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